So many people we know have talked about cool destinations in South America but few have gone deep enough to find the hidden gems. Machu Picchu is one of the places, very popular but definitely requires extra effort to get there.
Machu Picchu is an Incan Citadel of the 15th century, situated on a mountain ridge, 7970 ft (2430 meters) above sea level. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1983 and is also designated as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007.
The breathtaking Inca city was built atop the Andes Mountains in Peru. It is tucked away in the rocky countryside, the northwest of the Cuzco region, above the Sacred Valley, through which the Urubamba River flows.
Machu Picchu was built around 1450 A.D, but was abandoned just over 100 years later, in 1572, as a belated result of the Spanish conquest. It is also believed by many that the inhabitants died from the outbreak of small-pox, that was introduced by travelers. However, Machu Picchu was re-discovered by Hiran Bingham, an American Archaeologist, in 1911.
Machu Picchu is now considered as one of South America’s most famous tourist destination, said to attract about 1.2 million visitors a year.
It stretches over a distance of 5 miles and features more than 3000 stone steps. The Incans are known to have mastered the art of masonry. This art is extensively displayed at Machu Picchu, where the stones were cut to fit together without mortar. Machu Picchu has an amazing natural setting of its own and its walls, stairways, terraces and ramps add more value to its scenic splendor. It is a mesmerizing site to watch the sun set over its towering stone monuments.
Machu Picchu is divided into various distinct sectors, like a city comprising of a residential sector, a farming zone, a royal district and a sacred area. The most distinct and attractive structures at Machu Picchu include a Temple of the Sun God and a Sculpted granite rock, popularly known as the Intihuatana Stone, which is believed to have served the purpose of a solar clock or calendar, in yesteryears.
The Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cusco is the closest airport to Machu Picchu. However, international tourists also prefer the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima. Various Tourist buses operate from Cusco Lima. These buses offer meals and entertainment, but the trip is nearly 15 hours long. There are various plush as well as pocket- friendly hotels to stay at Machu Picchu. However, it is always recommended to book in advance.
Tourists have always flocked this place in large numbers and hence irreparable degradation has been caused to this beautiful citadel. Keeping in mind the consequences of such damage, a maximum limit of 500 permits per day has been set. Hence, making your bookings in advance will avoid any inconveniences to the travelers.
There are various hikes that one can take to Machu Picchu, like the toughest Salcantay Route, the Lares route, the Vilcabamba Traverse Route etc. It takes approximately 2 to 13 days to hike up, depending on the route chosen. For travelers who are not very fond of hiking or are short on time, can opt for the one day Inca trail, which is a truncated version, beginning at 104km of the Machu Picchu train line. The longest route to Machu Picchu is 43kms long hike and is rated among the top 5 treks in the world. Hiking to this place is an experience filled with a beautiful combination of mountain scenery, lush cloud- forest, sub-tropical jungle (which is home to various endangered species) as well as the famous Inca paving stones, ruins and tunnels. The price of this trek generally vary between USD $560 to 1600 per person, which includes the entrance fee as well as return by train.
It is most recommended to book this trek with an agency in Peru. Agencies outside of Peru charge exorbitant amounts for the same services.
So, pack your bags and treat yourself with a mesmerizing vacation of all times.